While some free online tools exist to support the detection of plagiarism, most institutions purchase programs such as Turnitin, Grammerly, and SafeAssign, to check not only Internet resource plagiarism, but to host a database of previously submitted student work for the institution. This practice can greatly enhance an institution’s ability to hold students accountable for academic integrity, even if a student copies his or her own work from a previous course. Although these programs promote the ethical use of information, they create a false sense of security in that the work a student submits is their own. In my district’s virtual school, there were some cases in which a student account was submitting work of sufficient academic integrity, however, the student’s parent was doing all the work. This prompted the virtual school to implement a policy in which content in an online course is split into modules and each student must schedule a “call-in” with the teacher of record to talk about what they have learned in the module. This process has greatly helped in ensuring that the student of record is the one completing the work. The virtual school final course exams are proctored and students must come to a testing site and provide photo identification to be given the online exam. In this manner, the virtual school has been able to prove that the student of record is the individual completing and submitting the work.
The punitive nature of copyright infringement, whether intentional or unintentional can hinder the body of academic work and creativity (Jocoy, & DiBiase, 2006). Last year during the training for building blended courses in Blackboard©, teachers were cautioned and trained on the proper use of citation and copyrighted materials. The fear of retribution convinced some teachers to limit their use of the learning management system and caused a backlash from others concerned about their own intellectual property rights.
More important than the detection of plagiarism is the development of student’s sense of ethics and integrity. Challenging students and building a culture of respect for individual contributions will have a greater and more positive impact than whether a program caught a “copy/paste” infraction. The lesson is not, in the not getting caught, but in the not wanting to steal in the first place.
Just as the Internet has provided almost unlimited access to information in the virtual classroom, teachers in the physical classroom have had to deal with these issues as well. In a great post entitled, “Google-Proof Questioning: A New Use For Bloom’s Taxonomy”, blogger and educator John Sowash shares how teachers can challenge students in meaningful and creative ways. Similarly, online courses can be designed with the intention of getting beyond the copy/paste option and into the creation of more personalized content that cannot be stolen but must be created to meet a specific goal.
Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 7(1), 1-15. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database.